Devolutionary Theory: Local Government Policy in Scotland for 2021-22

Devolutionary Theory: Local Government Policy in Scotland for 2021-22. Edited by Albie Mills, Chair of the Young Scottish Fabians. Foreword by Cllr Eva Murray.

You can read the full pamphlet here.

As Craig Edward points out in this pamphlet, the two greatest threats to Scotland today are poverty and climate change. Most of those writing will be only forty years old when the world finally warms over 1.5°C. It will cause radical changes to our lifestyles and the gap between the rich and poor in our society will be even starker than it is now. What we wanted to achieve with this pamphlet was to point out that a greener and more equal society need not be painful, expensive or complex if the right power is handed to the right people. We need to get people out of cars and onto bikes, buses and trains. We need to get people out of inaccessible, inefficient and expensive housing and into homes which offer people comfort, security and affordability. 

This will not be achieved simply by throwing money at the situation. Councils are underfunded, yes, but the last ten years have highlighted how dysfunctional and short-sighted local government funding models really are. If spending power is to return to the hands of local communities, then they need to be able to raise that money themselves and according to their own needs. Whatever your view on the constitutional question, power cannot reside exclusively at Holyrood or Westminster, where it is squandered on party political games. The Labour Party was the party that passed the Scotland Act 1998, giving legislative power to a Scottish Parliament for the first time since the Act of Union in 1707. The great Donald Dewar, who died twenty years ago, described the opening of the Scottish Parliament as “the day when democracy was renewed in Scotland”. If we are to renew democracy in Scotland once more, then we must devolve it once more; this time to local authorities. After all, why wait 292 years when you can do it after 20?

I would like to thank all of the contributors to this pamphlet enormously. When the first ideas were being formulated for a Scottish policy pamphlet for the next two years, the Young Scottish Fabians did not even exist. This document is testimony to the hard work of a group of young people committed to having not just Scottish voices heard, but the voices of local authorities across the country who are crying out for more powers and more funding. Scotland is experiencing a crisis of local government, highlighting the yawning inequalities between different parts of the country and even different parts of its great cities. The future of the Scottish left lies in young people committed to handing social, economic and political power back to its communities and exploring innovative policy in doing so. Thank you to all those in the Young Scottish Fabians who have worked so hard to make this, our first year, such a success and so enjoyable from my own perspective. Bring on 2021, air adhart!

Albie Mills is a support worker in Edinburgh and Chair of the Young Scottish Fabians.

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